The Indian Air Force recently lost a young warrior in a MiG-21 Bison accident on 21 May. On 27 May, No 23 Squadron—‘Panthers’ as they call themselves—flew a ‘Missing Man’ formation over the base led by the Commanding Officer. There were two reasons for this: One, to honour the departed warrior, and two, to honour a tradition.
The tradition is that after a fatal accident the first sortie in the Squadron is flown by the Commanding Officer (CO) himself – indicating that while the Squadron grieves for the departed comrade, life must go on and the Squadron must get back to its assigned task.
This particular Panther mission had an additional significance. Flying in the formation was Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria himself, who is also the senior-most Panther in service. Besides joining the CO and the Squadron personnel in the tribute, it also showed his faith in an aeroplane that has had a not-so-good reputation these past few years.
The CO, of course, was living up to the tradition that Commanding Officers lead from the front.
Role of the commanding officer
The aviation horizon is widening and with advances in computing power, aerodynamics and engine technology, newer and fancier aeroplanes are appearing on the flight lines